All around him, as he fought to stay afloat in a turbulent Lake Michigan, fellow passengers struggled to stay alive. His mother and sister were among them.
The Stockbridge, Wis., man, then 19, couldn’t see in the dark as the paddlewheel steamer he had boarded a short time earlier for the trip from Chicago to Milwaukee broke apart and slipped beneath the surface.
Lightning flashed, illuminating the horrible scene. But he never saw his mother again, and the next time he saw his 24-year-old sister Elizabeth was when he claimed her body.
Last week, Sharon Cook thought of her relatives’ last moments as she swam down to the wreck of the Lady Elgin, which now lies in several pieces a few miles off the shore of this northern Chicago suburb.